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  • My brain is a toilet; My toilet is broken.

    Both of these things are correct. 

    I know that sounds silly, why would my brain be a toilet and why don’t I fix it; the brain and the toilet. 

    Toilet brain metaphor 

    I use this comparison with clients at least weekly to describe the function of neurotransmitters in the brain. I could use the specific terms and names but that would not be memorable, I can barely remember them half the time, and no fun. I will also explain very simply how some psych meds work for mental health. This is for those with anxiety and depression who are struggling to understand how medications can help the brain and make you feel better.  

    Non-broken toilet 

    I have learned using this metaphor, that many people have not looked in the back of the toilet. I included a photo for this reason. The process is something like this. 

    • You press the handle to flush it
    • The black lever in the photo lifts up, pulling a plug at the bottom allowing water to go in the bowl and when it is heavy enough, the bowl empties. Same as if you dump a bucket in the bowl, it flushes automatically. 
    • The left side of the lever, we’ll call it the weight, goes down with the water and activates the refill of the tank. 
    • When the water gets high enough to lift the weight, the water stops at the right time and doesn’t overflow. 

    The water goes Down and up, down and up. Thats the basics… ps. I’m a therapist and not a plumber so this is just what I see. 

    Broken Toilet 

    My toilet doesn’t fill up. 

    I can flush it all I want but the water doesn’t turn on. 

    I have to press down the lever to make it fill up. 

    And guess what, it also doesn’t stop filling up. 

    It would over flow if I left it. 

    What would that do if I left it for a day?

    A week?

    A month?

    My brain

    So if the water is my feel-good feelings in my brain. 

    And the toilet is my brain. 

    My toilet doesn’t fill up- Depression

    My toilet doesn’t stop filling up – Stress 

    Both cause damage to my brain and my bathroom.

    Every brain is different, some don’t stop flushing, they might sleep A-LOT. 

    Our brains naturally flush when we are sleeping. Another reason sleep is so important to your mental health. 

    My brain on medication 

    My empty brain needs more feel-good feelings, so they prescribe me an antidepressant, usually an SSRI. 

    This means “Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitor” but who’s gonna remember that. 

    It prevents my brain from flushing all the water so we have some to use. 

    Some brains, like mine, don’t stop filling up once we get the feel-goods. 

    This is one of the risks doc’s talk about when starting meds. 

    Lucky me….

    So I also need a medication to make my brain flush. 

    But flush later so I have some left to use. Just enough flush. 

    This is an anti-psychotic. 

    Although that is a scary word, and my metaphor might make me sound crazy, thats not what I’m talking about. 

    It makes my brain flush when it’s supposed to – Sleep. 

    So my brain fills up a little more than it would like to.. to keep away the depression and flushes when it supposed to so that we don’t over flow and have a break-down. 

    For some people, myself included, these medications prevent damage to my life and my brain.

    Author: Kara M. Mumford LISW-S

    Published: May 12th 2022


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